60. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State 1

818. 1. In discussions during my recent visit to Washington,2 it was agreed that it would be desirable to sound out Japanese leaders cautiously to see if they felt ready to explore more deeply with us future of American-Japanese relations in hope that effort would lead to stronger, more fruitful relationship at this time of heightened tensions and would avoid certain looming problems. For this purpose, presentation I made at Security Consultative Committee on Sept 1 included clear indication that we would welcome fuller dialogue on whole spectrum of our mutual security problems (see Embtel 773).3 On preceding day I also tried to draw Prime Minister Sato out in private conversation with him, following courtesy call with Admiral Sharp.

2. I pointed out to Sato that climate of US-Japan relations has been stagnant or deteriorating over past few months, primarily because of widespread popular criticism in Japan of US actions in Vietnam and opposition to our use of bases in Japan and Ryukyus for any purpose in any way connected with war in Vietnam. I made plea for GOJ to recognize that preventing victory of Communists in SE Asia was as much in Japan’s interests as US. I hoped GOJ would begin take public position in Japan in support of US not simply on grounds Japan tied to US by security treaty, but on basis Japan’ own safety and need for [Page 125]peaceful and friendly SE Asia. I suggested that we might begin serious discussions aimed at identifying Japanese and American interests and determining how we could best cooperate. I also carried out instruction in Deptel 516,4 pointing out need for expanded economic assistance to Vietnam to build up economy and care for refugees.

3. Sato’s reactions throughout, as in other conversations since middle of last spring, were basically evasive. On Vietnamese aid he indicated GOJ would consider specific concrete proposals (such as humanitarian aid to refugees, dams, electrical generating plants, etc.) when they came up but was not ready at this time to discuss generalized problem of long-range assistance to Vietnam. He based this position on alleged Asian inability to understand economic aid to build up a country at a time when war was going on. Implication was that he felt overall aid program could not be discussed until it could be completely disassociated from American prosecution of war in Vietnam. On subject of Japanese public opinion, Sato admitted press gave slanted view, but asserted that majority of Japanese people supported us and only “Socialists and Communists” opposed. He then suggested that unfavorable Japanese public attitude toward US was caused by economic problems such as civil air negotiations, fisheries dispute, and cotton and wool textiles. He added hope US would treat Japan on same basis as Canada. (He obviously had economic matters only in mind in this statement.)

4. I replied that relationship such as with Canada or perhaps more appropriately as with Germany would be highly desirable, pointing out that these countries gave strong governmental and public support to our mutual defense needs.

5. This initial approach to Sato was disappointing because he clearly wished to avoid at this time serious exchange on mutual interests and security problems. From other things he has been saying, I believe his thinking is that GOJ over next three months faces serious political problem in Diet fight over ratification of Korean treaty and therefore all other problems should be soft pedaled until this safely out of way, by which time he may expect Vietnam situation and state of public opinion in Japan will also have improved. I would agree that any public debate of US-Japanese relationship is undesirable at this time, but I feel that this should not inhibit confidential exploratory conversations. Real question I believe is whether Sato will be ready for serious examination of problems even after ratification of treaty. I propose to continue discreet soundings with leaders close to Sato and others with influence in Liberal Democratic Party with a view to [Page 126]testing how much support there may be in party for more forthright stand on Japan’s relationship with US and its interests in Far East. My soundings might also help lay groundwork for fruitful talks this winter. Message I gave at Security Consultative Committee meeting was clearly understood, I am sure, and Yasukawa, Director of North American Bureau of Foreign Ministry, who was present at talk with Sato, in subsequent conversation appeared to agree with advisability of serious talks regarding our overall relationship and told us he had reported fully on Sato conversation to foreign minister.

Reischauer
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Reischauer visited Washington from August 11–12.
  3. Telegram 773 from Tokyo, September 1, contained a report of the discussion on Vietnam and the U.S.-Japan security relationship during the Sixth Meeting of the Security Consultative Committee held at the Foreign Office in Tokyo. Japan was represented by Shiina and Director General of the Japanese Defense Agency Matsuno and the U.S. by Reischauer and Admiral Sharp. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23 JAPAN)
  4. Not found.